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Harrogate International Festivals – HIF weekender online

Clearly there has been lots of things that people are missing due to the current situation, for me one of those things is of course the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (TOPCWF) However I’m pleased to say that Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) are come through for us yet again, and they are offering a fantastic free virtual HIF weekender!

To us Crime Fiction Fans the TOPCWF is the highlight of Harrogate (alongside a Betty’s fat rascal) however that is actually just a small part of the amazing events that Harrogate has and we are being given the chance to see offerings from across the board at the end of July. See below for more details of this exciting weekend which of course includes some of the best of Crime Fiction writer’s today, including festival favourites Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. I can’t wait!

Harrogate, Thursday 2 July 2020: Harrogate International Festivals is thrilled to announce first names for its new, free virtual festival bringing world-class culture to everyone at home, the HIF Weekender.

From 23 to 26 July, the HIF Weekender will present a celebration of the arts, featuring performances and interviews with internationally acclaimed musicians, best-selling authors and innovative thinkers to coincide with what would have been the legendary long weekend of Harrogate’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

The HIF Weekender begins with a bang, crowning the winner of the UK’s most prestigious crime fiction prize – Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year – in a virtual ceremony recognising the best of the best. The celebrations continue with crime writing royalty Ian Rankin, who was set to be the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Chair, interviewed by N. J. Cooper about Rebus, writing and Rankin’s ‘lost’ festival year. Lee Child will reflect on his extraordinary career with fellow author Joseph Finder, and Mark Billingham on the 20th anniversary of his iconic detective Tom Thorne and debut novel Sleepy Head. Steve Mosby will be joined by AA DhandEmma Kavanagh and Amanda Jennings to explore what it means to be a crime writer in the age of pandemic and why the genre has dominated reading lockdown reading habits, and Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste are set to present a virtual version of their popular podcast Two Crime Writers & A Microphone for the weekend.

Queen of crime Val McDermid will be joined by journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson to unpack the heritage and impact of her infamous New Blood panel, discussing the vital role this showcase has played in shaping bookshelves and literary careers, how trends have changed over the past 17 years, as well as giving a peek behind the scenes into has she selects her chosen four… all before welcoming this year’s formidable debut talent to share the virtual stage: Deepa Anappara, Elizabeth Kay, Jessica Moor and Trevor Wood.

For centuries music has provided refuge in times of crisis and Harrogate International Festivals has taken the bold step of commissioning a new work to premiere during the HIF Weekender, in a statement demonstrating the Festival’s commitment to supporting the arts scene and the artistic community at this precarious time.

Highly respected, Yorkshire based composer David Lancaster was commissioned by the Festival following the cancellation of the Summer Season. Inspired by the pandemic, Lancaster’s piece for brass band Eclipse was scored in just five days and represents the darkness and danger facing the arts at this time, with an invitation to remain hopeful until the light returns. The Festival has brought together musicians from around the world – from young players starting out on their journey to professionals at very top of their careers – to come together digitally as a community on the hallowed Harrogate stage for a collaborative world premiere led by acclaimed virtuoso trumpeter Mike Lovatt.

Jazz maestro Mischa Mullov-Abbado – who has also been commissioned by the Festival for new work premiering this autumn – is welcomed as a Guest Curator for the festival weekend, as well as performing with theMischa Mullov-Abbado Group. Reflecting the Festival’s dedication to championing new talent, Mullov-Abbado has handpicked some of the most exciting contemporary young musicians to join the line-up: rising stars and former finalists from the BBC Young Jazz Musician of The Year,Sean Payne and Noah Stoneman.

There will be a host of further classical performances from world renowned musicians including distinguished British cellist Steven Isserlis, the Navarra String Quartet, multi-award-winning concerto violinist Tasmin Little, Tehran born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani – a three time nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year – as well as a raft of emerging artists: pianist George Harliono, who was recentlyshortlisted for Classical BRIT Award, Argentinian composer and pianist Silas Bassa, violin and piano duo Abigail Hammett and Iwan Owen, and tenor saxophonist Rachael Green.

For folk fans BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominees Granny’s Attic are on hand to entertain, or if rave and house music is more your scene, Graeme Park – the DJ responsible legendary Hacienda in Manchester and at the heart of the cultural boom of Cool Britannia – will be joining the line up with a live DJ set and interview, so be sure to have your disco ball ready at home.

Alongside mesmerising music and first-class fiction, the HIF Weekender presents a series of cultural conversations with the best in the business including celebrated conductor Ben Palmer,Deutsche Philharmonie Merck in Darmstadt, and Founder and Artistic Director of Covent Garden Sinfonia; theatre maker and co-director of the Fun Palaces campaign, Stella Duffy, will be discussing the state of the arts in lockdown; newsreader and presenter John Suchet will reveal the man behind the music with his compelling biography of Beethoven; and one of the UKs most prolific and successful writers – Anthony Horowitz – will be sharing  anecdotes from his career, celebrating 10 years of Alex Rider and giving an early glimpse at his new novel Moonflower Murders.

As part of the Festival’s Berwins Salon North strand of TED-style talks designed to change your life for the better, the weekender welcomes geneticist, author, and broadcaster Adam Rutherford to advise on How to Argue with a Racist, BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind Claudia Hammondwill explain why we should be talking rest seriously, and astrobiology research scientist Lewis Dartnell will tell the virtual audience the ultimate origin story.

And not forgetting little ones, in addition to the host of activities and resources on the Festival’s HIF Player, the HIF Weekender will be introducing children to brass music with Back Chat Kids, sharing singalongs with Family Singing Sessions and History’s Maid Kate Vigurs will be revealing the horribly entertaining parts of history that children love!

Since 1966, Harrogate International Festivals has proved an artistic force to be reckoned with, presenting inspiring and ambitious cultural experiences in the most interesting spaces across Harrogate and the region, dedicated to its charitable purpose of ensuring as many people as possible have access to the arts. This commitment now takes the Festival to our digital doorstep, but for those unable to connect HIF has created a CD version of the weekender available to the public. The festival is also hosting a colourful window campaign to spread joy on the streets of Harrogate and brighten up the #ViewFromMyWindow, as well as live performances from the Band on a Bus helping residents stay upbeat and merry, and etchings of 10 Word Crime Stories as a nod to Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime  Writing Festival.

Sharon Canavar, CE of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Out of crisis comes creativity, and Harrogate International Festivals is delighted to present a world-class line-up for our first virtual HIF Weekender. Bucking the trend, we have opened our digital doors and wallets to fund artists and commission new work, knowing the transformative value that the arts bring in supporting communities – both locally and for our international audience. Whilst there is no denying that this is a hugely challenging time for the arts and for artists, festivals play a vital part in the creative industries ecology and defining our cultural landscape, and so we are extremely proud to be presenting this rich selection to our audiences world-wide for free, ensuring the arts remain accessible to all at a time when we need it the most.”

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Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read previous novels by Rod Reynolds and so was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for his latest Blood Red City.

Blood Red City starts with Lydia being sent a video of an apparent assault on the tube. The sender of the video is a friend who left the paper under a cloud. Lydia has recently been relegated to the night shift entertainment slot but at heart she is still a serious investigative journalist and thinks this could be the story to restart her career. She sets out to track down the victim of the assault but with no victim and the only witness disappeared she begins to think she may be being led down the garden path. Michael however knows that something went on and he is determined to find out what Lydia has found out before he is exposed. When Michael and Lydia meet, she soon realises that she couldn’t have begun to predict just what a dangerous situation she has put herself in.

Set in London Blood Red City is a book that definitely deserves the accolade ‘gritty thriller’. The story shows us the dark side of London and the battles to keep control. The novel starts off with a great hook, a crime that might not be a crime, and doesn’t let up throughout as we discover corruption and violence lurking just beneath the surface of our capital city.

I really liked the character of Lydia. A lot of the time female protagonists are either written as weak and indecisive, or conversely whisky swigging, don’t care about anything types. Lydia however just seemed normal, she made some bad decisions but also some good ones and she was clearly good at her job. The character of Michael was harder to pin down, throughout the story you get the impression of there being two sides to him and it’s not clear if he wants to protect or to harm Lydia.

The story itself is full of twists and turns that I found impossible to predict. There are some very unpleasant characters in it and each time you think that you have a handle on what is going on another red herring is thrown in. It is a complement to the standard of the writing however that despite the twists it doesn’t get complicated. It is a fascinating story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I would definitely recommend Blood Red City if you like gritty drama where the setting is as important as the characters.

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour to find out what other bloggers thought of Rod Reynold’s latest.

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Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year – new challenge

In the absence of a full TOPCWF this year, I thought I’d have a go at reading the full long list of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year as my challenge. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to complete it ahead of the announcement of the shortlist tomorrow but it’s my challenge and my rules therefore my aim is to read them all before the announcement of the winner later in the year.

The 18 authors listed are:

  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Read – see review here)
  • Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre 
  • Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver (Read)
  • Cruel Acts by Jane Casey (Read)
  • Blue Moon by Lee Child
  • The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
  • Red Snow by Will Dean 
  • Platform Seven by Louise Doughty (Read – it’s set in Peterborough so I had to read a book from my home town)
  • Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Read)
  • The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Read)
  • Joe Country by Mick Herron 
  • How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid 
  • The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Read – see review here)
  • Conviction by Denise Mina
  • Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (Read)
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North (Read)
  • Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson 
  • Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce  (Read)

Ok, well firstly that list confirms that I am very behind with writing reviews. Secondly assuming the winner is announced on the dates that the festival should have been held, voting for the winner will probably close a bit before then. That gives me around 6 weeks to read 9 books. I suppose there are some bonuses about the lock down, with the pubs closed the evenings can be given over to book reading!

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Lockdown

Well that’s now eight, or is it nine, weeks of lockdown, and frankly I have done absolutely nothing useful with my spare time. I am sure there are lots of people who have spent this time productively. Learning a language, taking up macramé, waking up bright and early every morning to do Joe Wicks (seriously does anyone really do that?) Well I get up, go to work, otherwise known as walk to the kitchen, work then go home, otherwise known as put my laptop back in a box. It really is not that different to my usual workday to be honest. I do find after a day sat at the kitchen table staring at a laptop though the last thing I want to do on an evening is stare at a computer again so I am way behind on reviewing all the books I’ve been reading recently.
One good thing about this whole situation is that the neighbours seem to have started talking to each other. Interaction between neighbours on this street is quite low, one side of the road is pretty much just old women, our side is a bunch of young couples with kids who for some reason avoid us like the plague. That of course could have something to do with the fact that the only sun we get is on the bench I put in the front garden, and it’s just wrong to sit in the sun without a glass of wine. We’ve always assumed that we are therefore seen as the pissheads on the street.
However that illusion was completely shattered the other day. One of the mad old women over the road invited us to join her for a drink in the garden. Of course neither of us wanted to go. If it were up to me I’d have happily hidden in our own garden and ignored her. However Mr F had made the stupid mistake of giving her our home phone number (that now makes the total number of people who have that number 2, the other being my 94 year old gran) so of course she kept ringing and the only way to make the noise stop was either unplug the phone or go over. As she could see us through the window option one wasn’t much use, so we had to go over.
There were 4 women in their 70s, all sat on deck chairs 2 metres apart, absolutely hammered. From what we could gather (as well as sitting 2 meters apart, and being drunk they were all rather deaf) they’d started on wine, moved onto gin and that had run out so they were on the rum. It was only 5pm but like they said what else were they going to do with their afternoon. I do suspect however that this is nothing to do with the current COVID-19 situation, I have a sneaky suspicion that this is how they spend most afternoons. Well I say afternoon, one of them admitted that the night before she hadn’t finished a glass of wine and had found it in the morning… yep you’ve guessed it she had it with her Weetabix.
Well clearly we are mere lightweights compared to the women over the road. Maybe that’s how I can use my time whilst we are stuck at home, I could practice my drinking. Or I could maybe learn how to write my book reviews in crochet so I don’t have to continue to stare at the computer on an evening. That would at least be something useful to have to show for my time in lockdown!

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